How woodpeckers avoid headaches

An analysis of woodpecker anatomy and behavior revealed some features that prevent head injuries and could potentially be put to use in designing more effective helmets.

Woodpeckers are able to peck at a tree trunk at a high speed (6-7 meters per second), resulting in intense deceleration forces upon impact, without sustaining any brain injury.

Researchers, led by Yubo Fan of Beihang University in Beijing and Ming Zhang of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, recorded the behavior using two synchronous high-speed video cameras, and also took scans of the birds’ heads to reveal details about the micro-structural parameters such as the bone volume, thickness, and density etc.

The results showed that specific details of the cranial bones and beak, such as the relative “spongy”-ness of the bone at different places in the skull and the unequal lengths of the upper and lower parts of the beak, were crucial for preventing impact injury.

Read more at PLoS ONE